Apologies for any delays to the site, and apologies again for publishing the following interview – which was originally conducted in 2008 with ex-members Jason DeCorse and James Striff, alongside present member Alvin DeGuzman, on the morning after The Icarus Line played at The Old Blue Last (London).
Due to the length of the interview, I’ve decided to split the interview into 2 parts, with the second part located here.
What’s the scene like in LA?
Jason: There is no scene. There is East LA, but everything else is just trendy – the clubs, the Hollywood thing. Sunset Strip is pretty much 80’s rocker guys. There is no scene.
James: There is no scene anywhere in the world.
Jason: It’s all right here and in here (points to heart and mind).
James: Our scene is The Icarus Line and Giant Drag.
Jason: The scene is where you create it. It could start anywhere, and bands could start from any place. It’s nothing but human movement anyway. Everything’s always changing. Pretty soon, bands might start coming out of Rhode Island. Who knows? Someone’s probably in their basement kicking up some new shit. It’ll happen, but LA’s always been a spot where people always come together to meet, so it’s always going to be a spot where people are always going there. There are always going to be new ideas, and new ways of doing things. People will always be thinking of achieving success, or not, constantly in that town. That’s what it’s all about.
Have you ever thought about moving into other artistic avenues which are associated with LA or Hollywood (such as acting or film-making)?
James: Definitely the porn industry.
Jason: I like doing film stuff.
James: Gay porn…
Jason: I’ve got a great idea for a porno… It’s about Thanksgiving, and you’ve got a table. Everyone’s at the table, and then this turkey comes up with this giant ass. And then everyone just hits it.
James: Have you ever checked out Tube8.com? That’s why you know good music isn’t being made anymore, because all the kids are too busy jacking off. Back then, kids (to get off) had to pick up a guitar or something.
Jason: Or find dad’s magazines…
James: Or a girlfriend. Now, it’s just Tube8 or Youporn.com
Jason: Kids don’t even jack off any more. They have everything.
Speaking of which, I was speaking to a religious guy today and he was saying that one should pray and that people have everything that they need. It kind of goes back to Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of Needs (food, water, shelter etc). With that being said, what do you still want – not in terms of personal possessions – but what do you still want to achieve with the band?
Jason: New feelings. New ideas and new songs. You get tired of playing the same songs. We have our set, but you saw the same set twice (Note: For those of you who don’t know, The Icarus Line played two shows in London during August 2008. One was at The Water Rats, whilst the other was at The Old Blue Last).
Speaking of sets, how come your set at The Old Blue Last was so much more shorter than your traditional set, as it was only 40 minutes long?
Jason: That’s all Wade (Note: The Icarus Line’s drummer at the time) knows.
James: Yeah, Wade joined the band the week before we left.
Jason: We had a bunch of guys who just weren’t cutting it…
Did that include the drummer from The Lemonheads?
Jason: That was a while ago (in December), and he was playing with us, but we just couldn’t afford him. He wanted money, which is fair, but we just didn’t have it to give him. So he had to go back home and be with The Lemonheads again.
But most of the drummers were inept. This band’s very particular, so for someone to get into the band, they’ve got to go through hurdles. They’ve really got to have a passion for the guys, the sound, the whole deal. Obviously, we’ve had drummers like you wouldn’t believe. So it’s a tough initiation to get into the band as there are a lot of silent and invisible hurdles. You just have to know when to jump and when not to… It’s nothing personal, but the people who we try out either get it or they don’t. They’re either serious (like we’re serious), or they’re not, and it shows.
Alvin: And we’ve got to not call them back.
Or write Wikipedia entries about them…
Alvin: Yeah, and they better hope that some people don’t write bad things about them in Wikipedia.
That’s really interesting, because when you first started out, you were synonymous with the whole “$ucking Dick$” graffiti art, and now that art has translated to the digital age where Wikipedia often acts as a venue where people just get their reputations destroyed. It’s almost like The Icarus Line have forsaken spray cans and have gone digital…
Jason (laughs): I know. I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought about trying to cause some sort of havoc, because being in this band… you might have to stretch the limits. But it’s got to be natural. You can’t contrive anything. You can’t just say “I’m going to break a window”. It’s all got to be natural.
It’s got to be “artistic terrorism”.
Jason: Yeah. No more fights and all that bullshit…
James: There is, but we just don’t talk about it.
Do fights still happen?
Jason: Not with us. Things have happened, but nothing to do with the band or anything. I mean, the tree thing was cool (Note: Jeff “The Captain” Watson once threw a potted plant off the stage which exploded upon impact). I can’t think of everything, but there’s always little things that happen. A lot of it is… I have to blame Jeff for that one. If anything’s going to happen, he’s going to instigate it and we’re all going to…
Alvin: Chime in.
Jason: But he definitely finds it. And Alvin’s got his Wikipedia thing, and that’s definitely caused… some shit.
James: I stole Mystery’s hat. I have that.
Jason: Oh yeah, we have that. There’s a show called ‘The Pickup Artist’. He’s this weird guy who tells people how to pick up girls. Really strange looking guy.
Yeah, American girls have a reputation for being easy.
Jason: As long as you’re older…
As long as you’re a rock star…
Jason: As long as you’re older than a guitar, you’re fine.
Alvin: Boy, it’s getting harder and harder to maintain that standard… But we don’t need Mystery’s tips, alright?
Jason: So Mystery’s tips, the guy… he’s got a hat.
James: He’s got a Tommy Lee like deal.
Have you ever met Tommy Lee?
Jason: I’ve never met him. I’d like to though…
Alvin: No, but I’d like to thank him for inventing those drum-sticks. Saved a gig or two for us.
James: I swear Wade broke like 8 pairs of sticks… within like 3 songs.
Jason: Yeah. But anyway, James stole a hat from the Pickup Artist guy. That was definitely funny. Because he’s got it on his show… every show. It’s like his thing… his hat. So James gets all drunk and steals it, and drives off with it.
Alvin: Yeah, I hear that the guy isn’t a real pickup artist. I hear he plays Dungeons and Dragons…
James: I don’t know, dude. He had like 15 girls all surrounding him.
Did he pay them?
Jason: I’m sure that they all wanted to be on TV.
Alvin: He paid Neil Strauss (editor of legendary Motley Crue autobiography ‘The Dirt’) to create his character.
Speaking of Dungeons and Dragons and all that Warhammer stuff, I hear you’re a big… Shall I say it for the record?
Alvin: You’ll have to stop the tape for this. I’m not having my account banned. You’re not ruining my online persona…
Do you play videogames?
Jason: He plays one game. The game of Life. He goes to college for that.
The School of Hard Knocks…
Alvin: I play ‘Rock Band’… In real life.
James: Yeah, Alvin relates everything in life to ‘World of Warcraft’. Whether it’s playing bass, or driving. Driving the band to the next city.
Alvin: You’ve got to watch out for those aggro-mobs. Have to aggro those mobs.
Jason: He can’t be in pursuit if his energy bar’s down. Like in Stockholm.
James: The truth is that Alvin doesn’t play any of that. It’s just a cover-up for all of his Wikipedia action. Alvin’s just a good boy.
Jason: Alvin’s got “chop-chop”. Alvin’s got his family in his dungeon making sweat-shop clothes for him.
Alvin: I’m like the ‘Kathy Lee Gifford band’ and I hire sweat-shop workers.
What’s up with the new record?
Jason: We’ve got 30 songs. We’ve probably gone over 18 or 19 of them.
James: We’ve got a studio.
Has Joe built his studio now?
James: Yes. ‘Gang Bang Park’. It’s ready to go. We just have to finish off a few things, and it’ll be ready.
When can we expect the new album?
Jason: It won’t be this year. But I think it’ll be February or March (next year) at the most.
Alvin: We’d like to break the old 3 year production cycle that we’ve been using in the past. But it’s pretty tough to do as we like to do touring. It gets in the way a little bit.
What do you think this album represents for you guys?
James: That Rock n Roll is still alive.
Jason: The integrity is still there. The Icarus Line is still there…
James: And The Icarus Line is kicking everyone’s ass.
Jason: There are songs that have aspects of all of our records. It’s all in there. While there is a stylistic convergence, now we have a sound that is altogether different. We’re all writing the songs together and around each other. We think about how we all play…
Alvin: I think there’ll be more of an emphasis on recurring styles within the album. We really didn’t do that before, so it’ll be different in that respect.
Jason: I hear a lot of things that make me go “wow”.
Alvin: I don’t know… We deliberately never really used to do things the same way, but we think that approach might have been played out. We’re trying to change our idea about that and we’re trying to have a style within the record.
That’s something I want to ask, because every album you’ve done has sounded so remarkably different in comparison to its predecessor. How do you guys come up with new and fresh ideas, and ensure that you reinvigorate yourselves without necessarily covering old ground?
Jason: We all listen to the same music. Even if we haven’t heard it before, if someone has something new that they want to bring to the table, then we’ll let them bring it so that it can soak in. That way, we all have the same musical tastes. Since we never lose that aspect of the artists that we like, we always end up keeping that classic sound. The thing is… we all listen to them together. That helps with the sound and helps keep us fresh. We’ve been listening to ‘Angels of Light’ recently, so now we’re all thinking about that.
James: Plus the fact that it’s a different line-up this time.
Jason: There’s a lot of respect. Everybody really wants to pay attention to everyone else’s parts – “What are you doing here? What are you doing there?”.
Correct me if I’m wrong, and apart from the drummer situation, but isn’t this one of the most stable lineups of the band since… forever?
Jason: Yeah, it’s pretty stable.
It’s not even about just being “stable”. There seems to be a lot of mutual love and respect within your current configuration.
Jason: Yeah. I feel a lot of really good camaraderie with these guys. It’s what I’ve been looking for, and I’m going to do everything I can to make it better. You see… I’ve been playing in other bands (for a long time too), and I’ve never really felt that closeness.
Do you want to maybe talk about some of your previous bands?
Jason: I was a part of a few things. Probably the only band that I really want to talk about is Greyhound Soul. I still play (with them), and those guys are older than me. I kind of had a camaraderie with those guys, and I still do to a certain extent. That’s definitely a part of my life, because I have a rootsy background. But that kind of made me who I am, and made me identify what I’m missing. But everything else was about me trying to get in there and live in LA and do something. I was never from LA, and so it was important for me to find that again…
Your Wikipedia entry definitely does give the impression that you’re an accomplished musician, and that you got the gig through merit, rather than through something else…
Jason: Well, it’s through doing as much work as I can. I guess it gets the word out that people know that I’m a person who can play guitar. That was my idea anyway. Ultimately my plan was to just do as much as I could, and eventually a really good band would notice my talent and then just take me up. And that’s kind of what’s happened, and I’m doing it now. So in that way, it is accomplished, because I got what I wanted. So… I’m here.
Alvin: Solo album. Coming soon.
Speaking of solo albums… Joe Cardamone did the ‘Souls She Said’ side project with Don Devore. Does Joe or any of you have any side/solo projects in the pipeline?
James: Joe’s working with Annie (of Giant Drag). I’m sure there might be some sort of collaboration.
Alvin: He’s very prolific so he could very well come out with his own solo stuff.
Part 2 of the interview can be found here.